JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED ANNUAL #1 written by Jeff Lemire, pencils by Neil Edwards, inks by Jay Leisten, colors by Jeremy Cox and lettering by Dezi Senty and Taylor Esposito is a shot into the future. Or, the future comes to the present. Yeah. That’s more accurate.
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED is an odd duck of a book. I’ve called other books odd ducks but this one is odd in that it is both substantially lighter and quirkier than other team books right not, at times bringing vaguely classic JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL and SUPER BUDDIES flashbacks but nonetheless still falls prey to the current tones of the reboot and stays knee deep in classic comic book convention. Not that it results in mood whiplash so much as tone dissonance. For me there’s a strong “Hey this is fun, let this be more fun instead of killing someone” feeling.
In the annual, the team has more or less split into two factions according to the current plot; the new Cree superheroine Equinox, Alana Strange, and Maritan Manhunter are together protecting a strange rapidly aging young alien mutant, Ultra, who had previously been kidnapped by religious alien-maniac Byth. Meanwhile, the “blonde brigade” of Stargirl, Supergirl, Green Arrow and Animal Man go searching for the person responsible in nabbing Hawkman’s body. Long story short Mon-El appears and demands from Martian Manhunter that the child Ultra must die. They spar, naturally, since superheroes generally only fight superheroes and not actually villains these days. Turns out, Ultra in the future becomes a destructive cosmic being named Infinitus (bleugh) who killed millions if not billions of people and had walloped the future Legion of Superheroes, injuring Mon-El’s girlfriend Shadow Lass (whom Mon-El believes is dead). Mon-El’s assault was an early one as Braniac 5, Saturn Girl, and Phantom Girl appear to calm him (Shadow Lass is fine) down and try to work things out more diplomatically.
Meanwhile the other crew finally get their information and find themselves sparring once again with Byth. And surprise! Guess who isn’t dead anymore?! A brainwashed Hawkman? You betcha!
Supergirl. Lemire in particular really likes Kara and I actually really like this version of the character (all accept the red crotch and bum plate of red on her leotard, just expand it to the entire bottom of her leotard as a nod to the original superman undies). She’s harder, shorter fused, and angry. More militaristic or maybe just a bit more alien than what we’ve been used to. She’s not so unpleasant or downright villainous to have to be given a retcon in some sort of poisoning causing her instability, but rather she’s just harder edged. She’s a flying brick and Lemire let’s her be that. Actually Kara resembles preboot Powergirl more than ever in a way, again something I find pretty positive. It’s surely a departure from preboot Kara who was post poisoning being fixed was much sweeter (too bad we never got her new costume like they teased). She’s probably one of the best characters in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED.
The sprinkling of humor in this is also appreciated. Animal Man pointing out that Stargirl and Supergirl are both “S.G.” and that he can’t address anyone as “Blondie” because they’re all blond is Lemire playing rather cheekily and in a way acknowledging the base homogeneity of a bulk of the team.
Not a fan of this art. It’s just not special. Not bad. Just not great either. Perhaps a different colorist could have made it look better but the pencils and inking aren’t quite up to par with what I’m generally looking for. Plot is not terribly original, but it does in a way work for what it is. I really can’t stand the Legion’s outfits and overall designs here; come on we’ve had them looking far better before.
Lemire has this strangely on the cusp of being unique, so much so that I think it’s a worthy read, but it’s not as strong as it could be on all other legs. I like the offbeat nature, they should really run with it. It’s solid but better art would have made this much better. Supergirl and the loop Adam and Alanna are caught in are definite highlights. DC should let Lemire do his wild thing and let him loose.